12 arrested after multi-year drug trafficking bust in Chicago nets $400K in cash and narcotics

Twelve people are facing felony drug charges after a multi-year investigation busted two separate drug trafficking operations on the South Side of Chicago.

The investigation resulted in the seizure of nearly $400,000 in suspected illegal cash proceeds, "distribution quantities" of fentanyl-laced heroin, cocaine, and marijuana as well as Bentley and Mercedes-Benz vehicles and a custom-built motorcycle, federal authorities said.

Led by the FBI Chicago Field Office, the investigation began in 2022 and relied on "covert surveillance operations," including wiretapping, as well as numerous purchases of controlled narcotics, according to the U.S. attorney's office.


Prosecutors said some of the defendants allegedly supplied or attempted to supply drugs to customers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ohio. One of those charged was also allegedly in possession of a loaded handgun.

Complaints filed last month charged nine individuals with federal drug conspiracy, which carries a possible life sentence.

$300,500 in cash from a duffel bag seized by police. (U.S. Attorneys Office)

They are Ronald Johnson, 57, of Darien; Sulstine Brown Robinson, 69, of Chicago; Charles Lawrence, 48, of Chicago; Darrell Jones, 58, of Chicago; Derek Donley, 29, of Chicago; Kendall Banks, 31, of Chicago; Niger Gray, 25, of Chicago; Jamari McNeal 29, of Chicago; and April Thomas, 60, of Chicago.

In addition, prosecutors said two other individuals who were involved in the drug trafficking operations were hit with federal drug charges.

Troy Bonaparte, 58, of Chicago, is charged with possession of cocaine and marijuana with intent to distribute. Byron Murphy, 39, of Chicago, is charged with distributing fentanyl-laced heroin, according to the complaint

Duffel bag containing $300,500 in cash. (U.S. Attorneys Office)

Prosecutors said Johnson was a large-scale supplier of narcotics, including cocaine and marijuana, and authorities witnessed him make several cocaine sales during the summer and fall of 2022. His conspirators used an apartment in the Oakland neighborhood as a "stash house" to store drugs and cash.

During a meeting outside the apartment in Dec. 2022, Johnson allegedly gave a woman a duffel bag stuffed with approximately $300,500 in suspected drug proceeds, which authorities later seized, according to the complaint.

A month later, Robinson was driving in Rock County, Wisconsin when authorities stopped his vehicle and discovered approximately seven kilograms of suspected cocaine from Chicago.

Cocaine seized from Robinson in Rock County, Wisconsin. (U.S. Attorneys Office)

In the second investigation, prosecutors said Donley conducted several drug deals in the 7700 block of South Yates Boulevard in the South Shore neighborhood.

During one of his alleged drug deals in Apr. 2022, Donley gave McNeal approximately 100 grams of a substance that later tested positive for fentanyl, the complaint said.

Prosecutors said a twelfth person is also facing drug charges, but was not involved with the two trafficking operations.

Toney packaging suspected drugs for sale. (U.S. Attorneys Office)

Chantell Toney, 37, of Chicago, allegedly sold crack cocaine on several occasions from 2022 to 2023, with one of the drug deals occurring last month in a South Shore apartment.

Toney is charged with distribution of cocaine, according to the complaint.

Prosecutors said most of the defendants were arrested on Friday or earlier this week, and have begun making their initial court appearances.